Obama Gets Timely Campaign Cash Boost

By: Wall Street Journal


LOS ANGELES — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama raised $32 million in contributions for January, his campaign reported, and will use the haul to finance a broad radio and television campaign in most Super Tuesday states and seven others holding contests in February.

If cash is a measure of popularity, Mr. Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, may be catching up to Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who holds a polling edge in several of the largest Super Tuesday states. Super Tuesday is Feb. 5, when Democratic candidates will compete in 22 states for 1,700 party delegates and a potential big edge in the nominating battle.

In a conference call with reporters, David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, said the January money came from 170,000 new contributors who donated in “remarkably consistent” fashion throughout the month. Mr. Plouffe said the biggest contributor day came shortly after Mr. Obama lost a close battle for New Hampshire Jan. 8. “We took a lot of encouragement from that because it showed the resolve of our existing donor base,” Mr. Plouffe said.

It is unusual for a campaign to release contribution figures on anything but a quarterly basis, as required by the Federal Election Commission. But with Mrs. Clinton leading in polls in large Super Tuesday states such as California, New York and New Jersey, the Obama camp clearly saw the cash haul as an effective momentum tool.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign declined to release a similar accounting. “We put out our numbers quarterly,” campaign spokesman Phil Singer wrote in an email. Indeed, last night, the campaign released topline figures showing it had raised $104 million.

Both candidates have blown the doors off fund-raising totals this political season. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama had banked about $100 million apiece through the end of the year. The Center for Responsive Politics in Washington said all candidates had raised $450 million through the first three quarters of 2007 alone.

The two campaigns also have spent a lot of money. Both reported spending about $40 million through Sept. 30, long before the first voter had cast a ballot. That rate of spending eclipses what many Republican candidates raised for all of 2007. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign released disclosure documents last night showing she had spent $80 million in 2007, leaving her with $38 million in cash on hand.

Contribution levels have been more disappointing this political season for Republicans. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the most well-heeled Republican candidate, had raised $53.9 million through the end of the year and had plowed an additional $35.4 million of his own money into the campaign, including $18 million in the last quarter alone. And the campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the front-runner on the Republican side, said earlier this week that it had raised $7 million through the first three weeks of January. The campaign reported raising $36 million in 2007.

Though the relationship between cash and voter popularity may remain a loose one, as evidenced by the current Republican field, there is no doubt it comes in handy for candidates competing on Tuesday, when an unprecedented number of states are holding nominating contests. Advertising analysts said that buying time to air television and radio ads in all of those states could cost upwards of $30 million. Mr. Plouffe said the campaign’s cash flow would allow it “to advertise in just about every Feb. 5 state at pretty high levels.” He said the campaign was planning a separate ad buy in seven states holding nominating contests shortly after Super Tuesday. Some 500 Democratic delegates will be at stake during a 10-day stretch in mid-February.

Mr. Plouffe said the campaign expected the race with Mrs. Clinton to go on for several more months, calling the nominating schedule “a very challenging calendar.” Both Mr. Obama and his campaign surrogates have cast themselves as big underdogs in the Tuesday contests.

Laying Mr. Obama’s January contributions aside, the Center for Responsive Politics said that as of this past fall, the money race in Super Tuesday states was relatively even, at least technically. The nonpartisan nonprofit group said Mr. Obama slightly beat Mrs. Clinton in these 22 states, trumping her 12-10. But Mrs. Clinton had the edge in the biggest states: New York, New Jersey and California raised more money for the Clinton campaign, where she also holds a decided edge in recent polls.

Campaign officials said Mr. Obama’s landslide win in South Carolina last week has helped tremendously in the money race. After a scheduled televised debate yesterday evening in Los Angeles, Mr. Obama was expected to attend a fund-raiser that the campaign predicted would attract about 1,000 attendees. Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton also had fund-raisers scheduled in the city last night.

–T. W. Farnam contributed to this article.

Write to Christopher Cooper at christopher.cooper@wsj.com

* Content From the Wall Street Journal supplied by Elva Ramirez:

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